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Its Institution

The central event of the betrayal night was the institution of the Remembrance of our Lord Jesus Christ. The occurrences of that night, and their significance, occupied the first article in this series, and we wish now to focus attention on the pre-eminent act of the Master on that historic evening. Two ordinances were given for the people of God today, given by the Master to "His own" for the blessing of those who were to believe on Him through their word; namely, the baptism of believers and the Remembrance. It is perhaps not surprising that these should have become the centre of much theological controversy. Their interpretation - indeed their manipulation - has offered many opportunities to the Adversary for the substitution of human thought for the simplicity and directness of scriptural commands. And so we observe the historical development of the heretical belief in both these ordinances as 'means of grace'; as the inception, or the sustenance, of spiritual life. In Scripture it is unmistakable that such life is "the free gift of God" (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8).

We shall consider the institution of the Remembrance under four headings, noting the contributions of the Synoptic gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke.

The Circumstances

The firm purpose of the Lord to eat the Passover with His disciples on this never-to-be-forgotten occasion must have been known to them in advance. Yet the detailed arrangements cannot have been discussed, and it would seem that the Master had a private understanding about the accommodation to be used. Said the disciples, "Where wilt Thou that we make ready?" Matthew's account of the Lord's instructions is the briefest at this point while Mark and Luke fill in the details about the man carrying the pitcher of water, and the "large upper room furnished". From Luke alone we learn that the two disciples sent were Peter and John.

The date was almost certainly 13th Nisan and on the evening linking that day to the official Passover "first day of unleavened bread" the scene was ready and appropriate. Again from Luke alone we have the Lord's pronouncement, "With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer". The spiritual link between the Passover and the atonement of the Sufferer of Calvary is infinitely precious to all who have learned to appreciate their deliverance out of the power of darkness (Col. 1:13). Although none of the Gospel accounts of that Passover specifically mentions a sacrificial lamb, it is difficult to visualise a Passover without this central feature. All else was secondary to the pascal lamb, and it was to the fulfilment of its typology that the Lord now pointed. We shall show that He also borrowed from the physical elements of the Passover in instituting the Remembrance. All that the deliverance by blood from Egypt conveyed to the Jewish mind was revived in the disciples by the re-enactment of the Passover; and into this was now being injected a new and deeper import. Suffering, sacrifice and salvation were to hold undreamt-of dimensions of meaning as the purpose of divine grace unfolded, and these men's memories were stirred repeatedly by a new and sublime act of remembrance. We may wonder how often in the course of their three years accompanying Jesus, the disciples had discussed Isaiah's word-portrait of the suffering Servant of Jehovah. Or had they completely failed to grasp this truth? Now, as recounted by John, they had witnessed and personally experienced the washing of their feet by the Lord, in the midst of them as One who served. Then, as also recounted by John, the initial celebration of the Remembrance was followed by the priceless ministry of the Upper Room. Into the unique setting of the momentous hours of that night there fits perfectly this act of love and appeal. The suffering and the atoning work of the Christ must for ever occupy the throne-room of discipled hearts.

The Company

Once more we turn to the Gospel according to John for a precious description of the company who received the divine commission to remember: "having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end". With characteristic tenderness the apostle John points to the Saviour's great love for these men. Why John does not proceed, as do the other three evangelists, to relate the institution of the Remembrance, we cannot know with any assurance. Perhaps its very omission brings to our attention the more vividly some of the background features of the occasion which John alone records, notably the washing of the disciples' feet, the departure of Judas, and the subsequent teaching of the Lord. It is the departure of Judas from the sanctified company (John 13:30) of the disciples which John pin-points in time, so giving us confidence in concluding that only His own received the bread and the cup of the Remembrance. "he then having received the sop went out straightway". From Matthew, Mark and Luke we could not arrive at an assurance that Judas had gone before the Remembrance was instituted. But there is very little doubt that that part of the Passover celebration involving the "sop" preceded the introduction of the Remembrance. In both Matthew's and Mark's narrative we read twice, "And as they were eating...", the first occurrence preceding the Lord's announcement of betrayal by someone present; the second just before the breaking of the bread as a remembrance of Him. If, indeed, as informed commentators suggest, Judas reclined in a place of privilege immediately on Jesus' left hand, the pathos and appeal in his first receiving the sop are heightened.

The impact of the truth contained here is something to be jealously preserved by the Lord's people. The communion aspect of our Remembrance of our Lord (1 Cor. 10:16) excludes absolutely those who are not His own; His by the purchase of Calvary, by the bathing of John 13:10. The Holy Spirit, in subsequent scriptures, makes further conditions for the gathering of saints around the Lord's table. Believers' baptism and addition to a church of God are revealed truths (Acts 2:41,42) which we dare not set aside. But the Spirit is surely drawing our hearts very near to the love bond; to the union of faith which essentially made these men HIS. He loved them, He treasured them, as John 17 makes so plain. And He longed to live in their memories.

The Content

The symbolism of the BODY and the BLOOD of the Lord will be dealt with in some detail in subsequent papers in this series. Let us just note for the present how these emblems derived from the materials of the Passover. Bread featured in that feast in quite large measure - indeed it was the feast of unleavened bread. Some of the bread had been dipped in the sop. At least three cups were used at the Passover at different stages. So out of that remembrance festival the Lord drew the physical materials of the new, just as we have seen with the spiritual significance. Bread - My Body. Wine - My Blood. God manifest in the flesh, and the life of the flesh in the blood. Nothing could be more eloquent concerning the supreme act of intervening divine love in the affairs of men.

In His inauguration of this unique ordinance, the Lord took, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to His disciples. We can, and surely should, follow the simplicity of these actions, and in so doing appreciate a place of great nearness to the momentous events themselves, though separated by the ages between. "And the cup in like manner after supper'. Clearly the two actions of the Master followed in close sequence "after supper". That the cup should be poured seems entirely appropriate in the fulness of the symbolism of "My blood, even that which is poured out for you" (Luke 22:20). The utter self-emptying of the Eternal Son is presented in the picture of the drink-offering; the One who poured out His soul unto death. The Matthew and Mark accounts both link the Remembrance cup with the foreshadowing of drinking new in the kingdom of God. This would suggest that the cup of Luke 22:17, connected as it is to the same prophecy, is the same as that of v.20.

Thus we believe that the order of events of The Remembrance institution is not seriously open to question. Simple acts in a simply set out order befit the unencumbered holy priesthood service of a spiritual house. And the Master's vision that night was both clear and full of love for His own, however limited their appreciation of the sacrifice impending.

The Command

"This do in remembrance of Me". Some commands in Scripture are so sparing in their words, and so direct in their imperatives, that the depth of their importance should never be missed. Such was the Lord's requirement of "His own" in this matter of the Remembrance. Arising from the washing of the feet, and the teaching immediately consequent on it, the Lord declared, "If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them". This same compelling principle was to apply to the memorial He was about to establish for their future spiritual service. Though the specific words, "This do in remembrance of Me" were recorded only by Luke among the Gospel writers, they were among those "received of the Lord" by Paul and delivered to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:24). The expressed desire of Christ, implicit in Matthew and Mark, is thus made quite explicit in two places by the Lord the Spirit, and stands rock-like by the Christian pathway of divine service. As one has forcefully exclaimed, "What can we do with, This do, but do it!" For, indelible in Scripture stands the principle "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Sam. 15:22).

Theologians may debate, and even heretics dissemble about the nature and the purpose of what the Lord did in that Jerusalem Upper Room. But the discerning disciple of child-like heart and loving response will value as beyond price an institution of surpassing beauty and arresting command. Until faith gives place to sight, "till He come", this regular, obedient, and above all loving proclamation of the Saviour's death, stands in its clear appeal to redeemed hearts. As the Lord's people, we neglect it at our spiritual peril, and fulfil it to our present and eternal blessing.

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